To the Contrary

Voluntary fire upgrades

It may be too soon to gauge the response to the Charleston Water System's dramatically reduced cost of connecting and operating sprinkler systems in local commercial establishments. But the voluntary approach alone seems inadequate in view of the tragic deaths of nine firemen in the June 18 Sofa Super Store inferno.

According to our recent report, only one local company has retrofitted its building to take advantage of the new, sharply reduced Water System rates approved in the aftermath of the fire. ...

At issue is whether the Legislature will require retrofitting of existing commercial buildings in the wake of the Sofa Super Store tragedy, in view of its refusal to remove "grandfather" protections after six people were killed in a motel fire in Greenville three years ago. ...

Obviously the greatest incentive to owners of existing buildings that store highly flammable materials should be the prevention of another disaster like the one that occurred at the Sofa Super Store. But the citizens of this state can't count on that kind of voluntary enlightenment. This statewide safety issue is within the Legislature's purview and lawmakers should act in January with dispatch.

The weaker dollar

Being proud Americans, we don't like hearing that our currency, the dollar, has sunk in value relative to the currencies of other advanced nations. This disparity is bad news for Americans planning to visit such foreign counties as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy. The British pound is strong against the dollar, as is the euro.

But when the subject turns to economic development, the weak dollar becomes good news, especially for South Carolina. Foreign tourists find it less expensive to visit the beach. And a weak dollar attracts global resources to our shores. ...

For instance, the BMW Manufacturing Co. announced that it will dramatically increase production at its factory near Spartanburg over the next five years -- from 140,000 to 240,000 vehicles per year. ...

The relative strength of the euro against the dollar makes European-made cars and trucks more expensive in the U.S. market -- BMW's largest market by far. The company can offset this disadvantage by making more cars in South Carolina.

We may expect to be first in the world in every category. We may deplore weakness in all its forms. But in our global economy, a strong dollar makes us weaker and a weak dollar makes us stronger. Doubters should consider that the weak dollar forced BMW to become a more American company.

Crowded prisons

It's not surprising that more than two dozen inmates of the Spartanburg County Detention Facility became restless recently, causing a disturbance that added inciting a riot charges to their other troubles with the law.

Dinner wasn't being served fast enough, so they threatened a guard and vandalized the place. It took a SWAT team to help calm the situation.

Why should we not be surprised? The inmates, many jailed on nonviolent charges, have been placed in a situation ripe for such disturbances. ...

Build more prisons, some say, but citizens have said no to tax increases to pay for them. And while lawmakers are content with longer prison sentences, they don't want to spend money on new jails. ...

Alternatives such as house arrest and drug courts should be offered to more nonviolent offenders, reserving prison space for violent criminals.

Continuing to fill our prisons beyond capacity when it isn't necessary punishes everyone.